Walt Disney World vacation planning can be overwhelming. Here are some important things you need to know. Think of this as “Disney Vacation Planning 101.” If you have questions about Extra Magic Hours, Park Hoppers, Memory Maker, FastPasses, or MagicBands then I am here to help! As a travel consultant who specializes in planning vacations to Disney Destinations, I have can help answer all of your questions.
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning: Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours are special times when Disney will open a park early, or keep it open extra late as a special treat for Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort property. Typically, it’s a different park each day of the week. One day Hollywood Studios may open an hour early, another day it will be Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, or the Magic Kingdom. There are some days when Disney will keep a park open extra late! This is my favorite. We have been there when Animal Kingdom was open until 1:00 AM. Another time we enjoyed Magic Kingdom being open until 1:00 AM. Only one park per day will be open early with Extra Magic Hours, and only one park every few days will be open extra late.
So, what tips and tricks do you need to know to make the most of Extra Magic Hours during your trip? Well, if you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel then you get to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours! They are included with your stay. Your MagicBand is linked to your reservation. When you get in line for a ride during Extra Magic Hours, the Cast Member will ask you to scan your band. If you aren’t linked to a Disney resort, then you will not be allowed to get in line for the ride. Staying on property has some perks, and this is a huge one! The wait time for rides drops. The crowds get smaller. Late night Extra Magic Hours are, in my opinion, the best. Late night hours usually keeps the park open two or three hours longer. Unlike early morning hours, where the park opens one hour earlier than usual. Some of the more popular rides with long wait times during peak day hours, have very short wait times. I think it has to do with the fact that young children are usually worn out after a full day of Disney, and may not have the stamina to keep going until 1:00 AM. Families with younger children usually attend the early morning Extra Magic Hours.
Some Disney planners, websites, and touring plans will tell you to skip the park with the Extra Magic Hours as it can increase the crowd size in general. My suggestion is use your Park Hopper. If you are a morning person, then hit the park with the early morning magic hours, and then head to a different park for the afternoon. Or, if you are like me and enjoy the late night hours, then spend the day in a park with regular hours and use your hopper to make your way to the park with late night hours.
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning: Park Hopper
A Park Hopper is a ticket add-on. A ticket to Walt Disney World is good for one park per day, unless otherwise specified. This means you can come and go as much as you like to one park per day. Wake up, head to Hollywood Studios. Enjoy your morning at the park. Go back to your hotel to swim, have lunch and rest. Then head back to the park. With just a Disney World park ticket, you would have to go back to Hollywood Studios. Admission to one park per day. For an extra fee you can add the option to park hop. This means you can go to as many parks in a day as you’d like. In some Disney social media groups, there is a challenge to hit all four parks in one day. It can be done! If you have young children (under 10), or are limited on time, then I would not suggest attempting the challenge.
Adding a Park Hopper allows you to have freedom and flexibility when it comes to dining reservations. You can have breakfast with the princesses at Akershus in EPCOT, and dinner with the Beast at Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom all on the same day! You also have the freedom to use the Extra Magic Hours as you like. Without a Park Hopper, you would be limited to one park per day.
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning: Memory Maker
All around the Disney parks and properties, are Photo Pass photographers. These are specially trained Disney photographers. They know where you need to stand to get the best shot of Cinderella’s Castle in the background. They take photos all day, every day of Disney guests. You can purchase the individual photos from the Photo Pass shop, or purchase the Memory Maker and get all of the photos, plus extras! Included with the Memory Maker are all of the pictures taken of you and your family on the rides. So, you know those pictures of people on the roller coaster? Those come with the Memory Maker. Disney also has Magic Shots they do with your Memory Maker. It might be Stitch coming out of a box, or Tinkerbell flying over your family while sprinkling pixie dust – you never know. There are videos included with the Memory Maker, as well as tons of Disney stock photos. If you enjoy making scrapbooks, or calendars then this is the best! All of your photos, plus extras allow you to put together a magnificent memory book about your trip to Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning: Fastpasses
They are included with your park ticket. You do not pay extra for them. Think of them as cut in line passes. Everyone starts with three Fastpasses per day. You will choose which attractions, or rides, you wish to use a Fastpass for and what time you’d like to use the pass. Fastpasses are good for one hour windows. So, if you have a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at 11:30, your window is 11:30 to 12:30. Show up anytime in that time frame and your Fastpass is valid. Once you use the original three, you can use the My Disney Experience app, or go to the Fastpass kiosk to make another. Use that one, and make another. You are limited only by time and availability.
Does Disney ever run out of Fastpasses?
There is a limit to the number of Fastpasses avaliable for each attraction each day. To start, you can make them for one park only. If you plan to be at one park for the morning, and another for the afternoon, you will need to decide where you want to use your Fastpasses. My suggestion is to make them for the morning, and then use the app to make more as you go. There are some details you should know. In addition to starting with three, some of the parks have a tier system. You can choose one from tier I, and two from tier II. For example at Animal Kingdom, you may choose a Fastpass for Flight of Passage, or the Na’vi River, but you can’t have a Fastpass to both – at least not to start with. You then choose two from the remaining attractions such as Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo- the musical, Dinosaur, Rivers of Light….well, you get the idea. Currently, the only park that doesn’t have a tiered system is Magic Kingdom. Fast Pass Selection may help you plan.
Does everyone have to have the same Fastpasses?
Everyone in your group does not have to use the same fastpasses. Let’s say you are planning your Hollywood Studios day. You have two people who want to ride Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and two who want Toy Story Mania. You can totally do that! When you choose your passes, you tell the system which guest are using a pass for which attraction. When you arrive to check in at the Fastpass entrance, you will be asked to scan your MagicBand. The system sees you have a pass, and into the short line you go!
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning: MagicBands
MagicBands, by the way, are your everything in Walt Disney World. If you are staying on property, your MagicBand is included with your stay. If you purchase tickets only, you can purchase a MagicBand, or use the card provided. The MagicBand has an RFID device inside. The first time you use it to enter the park, you will scan your index finger, thus linking the device to you. This is how the Photo Pass system knows to add your photos to your Memory Maker. The MagicBand is your key to your hotel room, park ticket, and if you so desire, you can link a credit card to your band. If you link a credit card to your MagicBand, then you will be asked to create a PIN number. When you are in the parks shopping and are ready to check out, you scan your band, enter your PIN, and off you go. If you are using the Disney Dining Plan, you MagicBand tracks your meal credits. It is your everything.
What if I lose my MagicBand?
And, if you lose it. . . . no worries! Go to Guest Services as soon as you notice it is missing. They will deactivate it, and issue you a new one. What if someone finds it? Well, it’s linked to your fingerprint, and reservation number, so they can’t use it to get into the park. They wouldn’t have your PIN so your credit card is safe. And once it’s deactivated, they really only have another bracelet to wear around.
So, now that you have a better understanding of Disney tips and tricks you may be ready to plan your trip. Or, if you have a better understanding, but it all seems overwhelming, that is where my services come in. The Home link will provide you with more information on how I can help you. Or fill out the information for me to Contact you.
Here is more information on Important Disney Deadlines, or Packing for Disney The Educational Tourist has extra tips on What to pack in your backpack for the park.
Here’s to magical planning!